RYAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your family and home.

JOSH: I grew up in the city of Chicago and currently live in a south suburb working for the Apple store part-time, mostly doing training. Since May I’ve also been the part-time worship arts pastor at Pathway Community Church in Elmhurst. I’ve been married for five years; no kids yet. My wife, Rachel, the love of my life, is a gifted worship leader and singer herself. She helps me in my ministry and works part-time in Elmhurst. I am also a singer/songwriter and have recorded and produced two albums independently.

RYAN: Describe your journey to becoming a worship leader.

JOSH: Last year, while praying about the Lord's purposes for my life, God brought to mind a moment from my middle school years. Many of us have had moments like these where we first encounter the living God in corporate worship and are literally overwhelmed by His holiness and love. Moving past words and music, into direct contact with the Triune God who is completely other has the potential to change everything. As a junior higher, I hardly had words to describe my worship experience or even fully comprehend what was happening, but I remember thinking that if words and music could help people connect with the living God in such a real way, then I wanted to be a part of that for the rest of my life. The Spirit has been consistently wooing me towards worship ministry and has given me opportunities to serve Christ’s bride through music and art ever since.

RYAN: What led you back to a local church position?

JOSH: At the start of 2007, I left my full-time worship pastor position at a large church in the south suburbs of Chicago, burned out, discouraged and wrestling deeply with worship theology and what true art was. I thought for sure that I was either going to earn my living by being a singer/songwriter vocationally or by working somewhere that allowed me to pursue that goal. I had tried worship ministry and it didn’t work out, so now I was going to live out my “true dream” to share my art with the world. I recorded and produced two albums during this time and had several conversations with record labels and producers that I thought might lead somewhere.

I also started getting requests to lead worship for local events, ministries, and churches on a per-hire basis. This gave me some income, since I didn’t have a job, and also allowed me to continue leading worship even while my heart was still wrestling deeply with what it means to lead others in true worship.

Pretty soon, I was leading worship at different events, camps and conferences full-time. Doing spot dates like this and being distanced from church administration and politics gave my heart time to heal and gave God space to convict me of some of the wrong thinking I had about ministry and what it meant to “arrive” as a worship leader/artist. At the same time, I felt the tension of being disconnected from a local worshiping community because we were somewhere different almost every weekend.

As time progressed, I was getting “bigger” and “better” opportunities to lead worship at larger events that paid more money, but God was changing the desires of my heart. I found it continually harder to practice the things I was learning about worship with people I knew only for a weekend. I longed for a community of believers with whom I could work out what God was teaching me and grow with.

My wife and I began to pray that God would place us back in local church ministry. I immediately thought that my experience and credentials would land me in a large church, with a great salary and a lot of resources, but God kept placing the passage from James on my heart that says, "the brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position". God was gently showing me my pride and wrong feelings of entitlement. Slowly my thinking changed, and I desired rather to be entrusted with God's will, no matter what it was. The Lord was preparing me for His best.

This led me to an unexpected conversation with Kirt Wiggins, the lead pastor of a four-year-old church plant in Elmhurst, IL, about a part-time worship pastor position. I remember leaving that conversation overjoyed at the possibility of what being the church and embodying the gospel could look like. My heart was literally dancing over the reality that God could provide a place for me to partake in His Kingdom where I could authentically minister and participate as the Lord was leading me. I was hired on as the part-time worship arts pastor in May of 2009. It’s a perfect fit for me and my wife, and we couldn’t be more grateful and thankful that the Lord has put us there.

RYAN: Tell us about your church.

JOSH: Pathway Community Church is an interdenominational church that was planted four years ago in Elmhurst, a middle class western suburb of Chicago. We are a non-traditional church that meets in an old restored movie theater downtown. This means we setup and tear down in the theater every Sunday, which is difficult, but provides more service opportunities for our people to participate in. We have office space located close to the theater but no large meeting space of our own, meaning we are limited to meeting together in homes and the “public square” during the week. This has been a gift to us, helping us value relationships and attempting to live out what it truly means to be the Church, versus just showing up for programs.

Our worship gathering is casual. People are free to come as they are. Our music style is contemporary, while incorporating many hymns. We include in our services corporate prayers, scripture readings, contemplative space, and communing together. Most of the time we do the majority of our singing at the end, in response to God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper. We’re experimenting and learning how to use art forms other than music to present the gospel. We have a community of musicians, artists and worship leaders that share life and pray together regularly. We’re becoming a people in pursuit of communion with the Triune God, learning together what it means to receive and respond to the gospel.

RYAN: What do you hope to bring to Reform worship.?

JOSH: I am so excited to be a part of Reform worship. My heart resonates deeply with the conversation taking place here, and I want to help take what’s shared and make it more accessible to worship leaders everywhere. Hopefully, I can contribute to making our site a little more aesthetically pleasing and spread the word that there is a resource for worship leaders to grow in their theological depth and historical understanding of what worship is and does, whether they are just starting to lead worship or have been for years.

As a part-time worship pastor, I know what it’s like to have limited time and finances. Reform worship. has an opportunity to be a valuable resource for worship leaders. As we continue to share our songs (even with mp3s and charts), art, and the other elements we’ve used to help our local churches reveal, receive and respond to the Gospel, I believe that we’ll see more people joining the conversation, sharing stories of how these things are being worked out and wrestled through. Hopefully, the result will be a deeper understanding of the gospel in our post-modern culture, a richer communion with our Triune God, and a more purified Church living in the rhythm of death and resurrection, awaiting the return of her Bridegroom.

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